Tuesday Tip

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tip#1There are a lot of things to consider when you start writing a book: Who will be your agent? Who will design your cover? Who will publish it? But before all of those things, you must decide who will read it.

The decision is yours whether or not to let anyone read your book before it is released, but I believe the best books are those that have had an extra pair of eyes on them, or two or three. I believe the rule of thumb is to have 3 or 4 people read your book (at least one of those should be an editor). You may ask, why not make them wait until it’s finished? Because other people can alert you to problems with your writing such as grammar, spelling, plot, characters, etc. They can identify your strengths as well.

When do you let people read your work

I know a lot of writers who don’t let others read their book until it’s considered “done.” To be honest, I think it’s more beneficial to send a rough draft to them so they can spot plot holes and major character issues before you’ve wasted hours on grammar and re-writes.

How rough is too rough? The term “rough draft” is relative–like the word “pretty.” A lot of people call the first draft the rough draft. I prefer the term “throw away draft” that someone coined on their blog.

This is what many call the first draft. This is your writing when it first crawls out of the primordial ooze, before it gets fully-developed legs and loses its gills. I think this is too rough to send to readers. My suggestion is to revise it once or twice so that you can give them an accurate representation of your writing style, voice, the story, and the plot.

If a draft is too rough, your reader will get so hung up and slowed down by sentence fragments and unfinished thoughts and scenes, they won’t even be able to tackle your big picture. On the flip side, don’t wait until it’s too far along, or you might not be able to make the suggested revisions because you’ve spent so much time on each scene, you won’t be willing to change them. It’s easier to make changes while something is still being developed.

Example: The Lord of the Rings

In early drafts Aragorn was a hobbit and his name was something stupid like Trotter or Fosco. After it was read by another pair of eyes (the editor, or whoever he was), Tolkien agreed that there were too many hobbits in the story. Aragorn was eventually changed to a man and the rest is history.

Characteristics of a good reader

Now that you’ve agreed to let people read it, you must decide who those people should be. Beta readers, critique partners, and experienced writers and editors make the best readers, but what about friends, co-workers, and family? It might be tempting to let everyone you know read it, but you don’t want just anyone and everyone reading your writing. Choose wisely. It’s less of a time waste to find good and bad readers than to sift through good and bad suggestions.

Your readers should possess these traits

  • They should be your target audience
  • Their goal should be to help your writing
  • They should be objective
  • They can criticize constructively
  • They are regular readers
  • They are honest
  • They have good communication skills

Family failures

So looking at this list, it may surprise you that you are more likely to find a good, reliable reader in a complete stranger than your own family. If you think your loved ones don’t lie to you, wait until you hand them a snippet of your writing. Their best and worst qualities will come out. Here’s how:

  • They take it personally
  • They are not constructive
  • They are biased
  • They sugar coat
  • They make it about them and not about your writing
  • They are either upset because they think you wrote about them or because you left them out
  • They are not your target audience
  • They will look for hidden context

Really the list goes on. The only relative I let read my writing is my sister, and I often make the mistake of giving her too much context before reading. Because she is familiar with the plot and characters, she is not technically a fresh pair of eyes. But she is as objective as family can be, and her goal is to improve my story and my writing, not to spare my feelings or make me feel good. Believe me, I don’t come away unscathed by her criticism. I have a bag I put over my head that I drew a meme face on to hide my expression when she critiques. The faces I make behind the bag are much worse.

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Where can you find good readers

  • writing groups
  • twitter and other social media sites
  • seminars
  • referrals from other writers you know
  • Google (when all else fails)

Some will be happy to read for free, but be prepared to pay a little for good readers, or you can offer a free download of your book upon release. Gift cards are also nice. Sometimes the only payment expected is for you to return the favor.

So before you design your fancy cover, before you send out queries to agents, put your feelers out for readers. When you are ready for feedback, keep the qualifications in mind. Don’t waste your time with bad readers who will do nothing but offer bad advice. Find people you know will help you polish your work.

Free Fuel Day!

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No, not that kind of fuel–writing fuel. You know, coffee!!! You’ll still have to pay today to fill up your car’s tank, but you’ll pay little or nothing to fill up your writer’s tank, because it’s National Coffee Day!

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For an entire week, in honor of National Coffee Day, McDonald’s has been giving away free coffee. Today is the last day. Anyone who has had McDonald’s coffee knows it’s not the best. Hell, it might even be the worst. Some days it’s good, some days it’s bad, but hey, it’s free. I’m sure Starbucks will be giving out samples as well, so I’ll be bouncing all over town to get specials–not to mention bouncing off the walls.

Why celebrate coffee? Same reason we celebrate Mother’s day or Administrative Professionals’ Day, to thank this awesome beverage for all it does 365 days a year. It keeps us awake, alert, and ready to write. Thank you, coffee for giving me that kick in the brain I need every morning and every evening.

Right now, I’m enjoying a dollar latte from Coffee Junkeez. Check out your local businesses to see if they are offering free or discounted coffee.

The First Glimpse of Lothlorien, Some History, and Some Doubts

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literaryliason:

In honor of Tolkien week, I wanted to share this post. If you’re a Tolkien fan, like me, check out this blog.

Originally posted on Sweating to Mordor:

Our passage today takes us from the Fellowship’s resting spot in a dell a couple of miles outside Moria, nearly to their camp for the night much closer to Lothlorien (but not quite there). They had to continue to put some distance between themselves and the Orcs, Trolls and Balrog, and so continued walking after nightfall.

We start with Legolas and Aragorn fawning over Lothorien. Gimli expresses a doubt that any Elves still live there, and Legolas seems oddly unsure himself.

‘It is long since any of my own folk journeyed hither back to the land whence we wandered in ages long ago,’ said Legolas, ‘but we hear that Lorien is not yet deserted, for there is a secret power here that holds evil from the land.”

Since Tolkien was basically making this up as he went, he had no prior conception of the Mirkwood Elves originating in Lothorien. In…

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Thanks For Following

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200 followers! I feel like Frodo!

I want to thank all of you who follow me, because today, I have gained  200 followers on both Twitter and WordPress. That’s right, they both got 200 followers on the same day. That’s saying no one unfollows me in the next minute–you know how Twitter can fluctuate like the stock market.

I can’t help noticing how similar this is to the photo above.

My goal was to have 200 followers by the beginning of January. Thanks to all of you, I’ve reached that milestone roughly three months early. So now, I’ll be shooting for 300 by the start of 2015. I love reaching goals and getting to set higher ones. Thank you all for pushing the bar higher. I appreciate all of your follows, likes, and comments.

Tuesday Tip

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I’ve noticed a lot of bloggers I follow have been selected for a blog hop where they describe their writing spaces. This is the best blog hop, hands down. Getting to see where writers work is like going to Disney World to see where the “magic” happens, i.e., one artist lazily doodling while the others are on coffee break. I couldn’t help but notice although they all wrote in different places, they all seemed to have similar tools of the trade. I’m still creating my own writing area. I’ve got one room to work with and I don’t have a lot of room for furniture, so I’ve got to make every square inch count. If you’re like me, have no fear, here are some tips for creating your perfect writing place.

Location, Location, Location

A good writer can write anywhere, but let’s face it, some places are more inspiring than others. A lot of us have our best brainstorming sessions in the bathroom, but I don’t recommend setting up shop there. When looking for a location, consider the following:

1. The view

This is important. When you’re brainstorming or just staring off, what do you want in front of you? Do you want a view out of a window, or are windows totally distracting to you? Do you like staring at a blank wall or would this drive you crazy?

2. Noise level

A lot of writers are sensitive to noise. What noise we do allow, we like to control. I like writing to music but not to screaming kids or blaring television. When choosing a room, consider the noises you won’t be able to control, like a room beside a washing machine, water heater, refrigerator, or anything else that grumbles, rattles, and groans. You should avoid rooms that are too close to high-traffic areas like bathrooms, laundry rooms, and dining rooms. One of the bloggers I follow, who participated in the blog hop, actually wrote from a shed. Talk about privacy and peace and quiet.

3. Distractions

I used to live in a 750 square foot condo, so carving out my own place was impossble. Everywhere I wrote there were distractions. If I wrote on my bed, I fell asleep; if I wrote in the family room, I was privy to all the noise in the house–not to mention I was distracted by my books, everything I could see or hear out my window, my cats, the television, etc. For awhile I wrote in the kitchen. To be honest, the set up was great. I had a big kitchen table my mom refinished for me, so I had plenty of room for notes, books, and food–the latter being the problem. I don’t recommend writing in the kitchen unless you want to get fat instead of getting any writing done. I used to get up a lot to get drinks or snacks. I was right by the fridge; it practically called to me.

4. Color and smell

Studies show that certain colors inspire creativity. Green is supposed to make you more creative. The smell of peppermint is supposed to keep you alert. Therefore, a green wall and a peppermint candle make the perfect combo to help get the creative juices flowing.

The Tools of the Trade

1. A desk or laptop tray You don’t need to have a desk if you like to write on your bed or couch, but I do recommend a laptop tray if you will not be writing with a pen and paper. One reason is for safety. Laptops get very hot and can start fires if left on a soft surface like a couch or bed. Not too long ago I read about a man who died in his home because of the toxic fumes his laptop gave off as it set his house on fire. If you can, purchase a desk. I like corner desk because they take up less space. If you write from a desk you’ll want a comfortable chair as well. When choosing a desk, have an idea of what you will be putting on it, so you know how big it should be. Also, consider if you want drawers and compartments for storage?

2. Lighting

If you don’t get a lot of natural light you will want a floor lamp or a desk lamp. Don’t be like Bach and compose your masterpiece at night with poor lighting. I used to write by candle light, but I don’t recommend it. I might as well have written by moonlight. Oh, the eyestrain! It’s no wonder I can’t read at night anymore. I made a lot of poor lighting choices in the past. For instance, aside from the candle light, I had a lamp with a red shade to match my walls, but I quickly learned this lighting was more for ambience than functionality.

3. Time wasting eliminators

I really couldn’t think of what else to call them. Essentials just sounded to blasé. What I mean by time wasting eliminators is things you need to keep yourself from getting up every five minutes. This could be a trash can, coasters, phone charger, tissue boxes, pen holders, filing cabinets, etc. Anything that prevents you from wasting time. If you have to get up for it, it should be on your writing desk or a nearby table. Keep things within your reach.

4. Accessories

This is where it gets fun. Remember, this is a creative space, not a work place. You can have photos, flowers, knick knacks, toys, stress balls, or whatever you like. On my desk, I will have a light up owl, photo frames, solar owl, Frozen stationary, and a Lego Legolas.

A Portable Writing Place

So what about if you are a writer on the go? It might be hard to take all that stuff and put it in the car. Sometimes relocation is stimulating, even if you just go to the café down the street or a local park, but it’s counterproductive if you get to your destination and realize you left something essential at home.

Create a writing bag

I recommend a messenger bag or a canvas bag: Something large enough to fit a laptop, large notebook, reference books, etc.  I have an adorable messenger bag I got from Kmart that has owls on it (because I love owls). Inside the front flap is a place for small notebooks and pens. There’s other compartments inside where I can put snacks, my wallet, phone, etc.

Keep a checklist

I recommend putting this in your writing bag so you can check it before you leave to make sure everything is ready to go. Which brings me to the next topic.

What should you bring?

  • laptop (if you use one to write) MAKE SURE IT’S CHARGED
  • notebooks (for writing the old fashioned way or for keeping notes)
  • pens (to write, scratch with, and chew on, of course)
  • folders (for notes, concept art, or loose pieces of paper)
  • reference books (if there is a book you constantly reach for when you write at home, take it with you)
  • snacks (don’t write hungry)
  • beverage (I recommend water)
  • ear plugs or ear buds (if you want to block out sound or listen to music)

When you’re done, you should have a space that does not irritate, confuse, or drain you, but a place that makes you feel inspired, creative, alert, and ready to write.

I can’t wait to finish my writing space. When I do, I’ll be sure to take a lot of pictures to share with you. I’d love to hear from you. Tell me about our perfect writing place. What do you have on your desk? Where do you write?

What Would Your Book Be Banned For?

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imagesCA49UIDNHappy Banned Books Week! For those of you who aren’t familiar, this week falls on the last week of September and is dedicated to raising awareness and celebrating freedom of speech in literature. To be honest, most of you have probably heard of Banned Books Week, or at least you’ve read a banned book (either because it was banned or simply because it was an awesome book). Some of you may have even written a book that would top the Banned Book list. For fun, please take the poll below. If you could have your book banned for any reason, what would it be?

Life Has a Sick Sense of Humor and Why I Write Comic Fantasy

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literaryliason:

Just wanted to share this, because, like so many other things (face included), my sister shares my thoughts and feelings on writing and life.

Originally posted on Lit Chic:

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Sometimes, the universe just points its finger at you and says, “ha ha!”

It’s no secret, life is hard, and sometimes it seems as though the cosmos is laughing at our struggles. I, personally, feel like I’ve become the butt of some cosmic joke. My mom was recently diagnosed with cancer, and the prognosis isn’t good at all. To say life’s been hard is an understatement. Not to mention my sister and I are still settling in to our new home situation. Then there’s the craziness at work, not to mention my novel’s impending deadline . . . it’s enough to send me over the deep end!

Several of my writing friends have suggested I hold off my novel’s debut, which is probably good advice, but writing seems to be the only thing keeping me sane right now, that and a bottle of roscato. Haha! Writing provides a means of…

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